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School for Snowshoes

Snowshoes and other traditional crafts are preserved at the Four Winds Boat Shop near Vermillion.

Students are welcome in the refurbished schoolhouse nestled into the hills of Dawne and Matt Olson’s farm near Vermillion. But instead of grammar and geography, these students are learning to make boats, pine needle baskets, fishing flies, wing bone turkey calls, snowshoes and other traditional crafts.

Dawne Olson came to woodworking through her love of the outdoors. After seeing a cedar strip canoe under construction at a canoe museum, she bought a book on canoe building and decided to try it, even though she had no prior experience. “I literally propped the book up in my shopping cart while I wandered around the store trying to find the tools that were recommended to use, even though I had never heard of half of them,” Olson says. She picked up additional books and peppered an online boat-building forum with questions. By the time Olson had a finished canoe, she was hooked. She opened Four Winds Boat Shop in 2015, in part so that she could help others feel the sense of satisfaction that comes from developing a new skill. “When I finished my third year of snowshoe workshops, one of the participants sent me a picture of her completed snowshoes,” Olson says. “She said, ‘I can’t remember the last time I was this proud of myself.’ I love that so much." 

Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the January/February 2019 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.


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